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85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg, 2 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: Trick and Treat: How Healthy Eating is Making Us Ill (Paperback)
So far the reviews here are from enthusiasts, and a few detractors with unconvincing arguments. I thought I'd try to bring some balance.

I read this book straight after "Why we get fat" by Gary Taubes, because I wanted to read more about the idea that saturated fats are good for us and carbohydrates are not. Barry Grove's book adds further support to that idea, while also extending the theme into other areas of diet and life (e.g. salt, sunlight) and examining the effects of high-carb diets on other areas of health, such as hypothyroidism and epilepsy.

At its best the book offers fascinating details of how our bodies interact with the foods we eat, and the discussion of milk, bran etc had me walking around the supermarket last week eying much of what was on offer with deep suspicion.

But the price we pay for having such a widespread discussion in a 400ish page book is that the arguments are not put forward with sufficient account of the evidence to be wholly convincing. This seems to suit Mr Groves' style. Time and again he makes an assertion, and an endnote number leads you to the list of references at the back of the book. Some of the references are to presumbably peer-reviewed articles, some are newspaper articles or other sources. Anyone who has read e.g. Ben Goldacre's "Bad Science" will be rightly reluctant to take these articles, and Mr Groves' account of their conclusions, at face value. We are generally told little of the samples, the control group, or even the conclusions as reported by the authors themselves.

At the risk of this sounding like it is a personal attack (it isn't - I'm really quite sympathetic to the arguments in the book and would love to see conclusive evidence for them) I think these defects in the book arise from:

1) Barry Groves' apparent lack of medical/scientific training. A short "About the author" at the back makes no reference to his having any medical or other qualifications (though I've read online that he is an electronic engineer). While he clearly knows a lot about the subject, I suspect that such training may have given him a more balanced approach. [Update: I've since read an online article which mentioned that he had a doctorate in nutritional science, but didn't say where it was from, and if true it's surprising he didn't mention it in the book.]
2) His apparent emotional investment in his core argument - the early chapters are the most offputting, where Mr Groves essentially accuses almost everyone who disagrees with him of bad faith. His frustration is understandable, but the combative approach makes me suspect that he is likely to be more sympathetic to evidence which he can add to his armoury than evidence which goes the other way. The fact that he has been arguing these general themes since the 1960s does not give me faith in his open-mindedness.
3) His wide-ranging scepticism - Mr Groves is a very energetic man, who apparently wins world archery competitions "for relaxation". He seems above all to delight in arguing against scientific consensus. I see from his blog that he also writes as a global warming sceptic. But as a reader, while being told that something you've always believed is untrue may be genuinely revelatory, a dozen revelations down the line you feel a new scepticism of your own creeping in.

So overall, I would say this book is excellent in the breadth of questions it raises, with some very compelling arguments, but I would not rely on Barry Groves alone to provide the answers. While I haven't read "Wheat Belly" yet, I suspect the best book on this subject is yet to be written.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Jun 2012 21:41:34 BDT
patty holden says:
I'm wondering if you are a doctor, sorry but you do not need scientific proof when you experience something for real! By the time science catches up with most things it's often too late anyway.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2012 11:31:01 BDT
A Reader says:
No, I'm not a doctor! Yes I have experienced some weight loss from a lower-carb diet, but I don't know whether this diet is increasing or decreasing my risk of a heart attack. And that's something on which I'd like good scientific evidence BEFORE I experience it for real! Thanks for your comment.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jul 2012 23:24:53 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Jul 2012 23:30:33 BDT
Hungry Joe says:
Yes I see a couple of contradictions here and there such as the notion that high cholesterol is not harmful but then recommending something (coconut oil?) that lowers cholesterol. But I don't have a problem with this. Having gotten to the root of Chronic Fatigue and treated successfully with a similar approach I had initially to wade through a lot of similar articles all with slightly differing valuations. (There is no one book yet on the subject) I have commented elsewhere that when treated for a genetic heart defect last year I asked the surgeon if I would have to change my diet. He said, 'No, whatever you're doing, it's keeping your arteries in very good shape, so stay with it.' I'm 67. My diet is regular saturated fat (meat especially including liver), low carbs, and brassica family vegetables.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Nov 2012 22:17:22 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Nov 2012 22:18:04 GMT
Vonney says:
Thanks for the reassuring comment from your surgeon. I too believe in this way of eating and am beginning to get into it having read loads of books on the subject. It is the element of replacing the carbs with more fat rather than more meat that was the turning point for me. I found that trying to eat more meat was causing me problems but by concentrating on the fat element has prevented them and seemed to be the missing link. I was nervous however and had worried that I may be setting my husband and I up for a heart attack but feel more reassured. Hopefully regular blood tests in the future will also support me too.

Posted on 9 Aug 2013 21:09:49 BDT
The Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet is the book for you...

Posted on 26 Nov 2013 17:48:14 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Nov 2013 17:54:27 GMT
Syd says:
Probably the best book I've read up to now is The Diet Delusion by Gary TaubesThe Diet Delusion Well worth reading for the true science behind the Low Carbohydrate way of eating. My wife and I have been following this route for about 6 months. We have both lost weight and feel much healthier and happier. My wife is diagnosed as diabetic, but now has a blood glucose level of around 5.5 (5.0 this morning). I don't thin that Vonney (above) need worry. There is no scientific link established between heart attacks and cholesterol levels. People die from other causes due to low cholesterol levels, but there is no evidence that lowering cholesterol levels increases overall mortality. And that's what matters.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2015 14:34:16 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Nov 2015 14:41:49 GMT
Michelle R. says:
Hi Hungry J.

I have read several books, mainly on the low-carb theme (e.g. this one and three or four others by Barry Groves [this one is the best], The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz, The Diet Delusion by Gary Taubes, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon) , along with the books on sugar (it's poison) by Robert Lustig and John Yudkin. According to my understanding, your diet is close to perfect - stick with it (I too am 67, and I am having liver later [all that vitamin A] - good stuff)

Posted on 22 Nov 2015 15:02:20 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Nov 2015 15:09:26 GMT
Michelle R. says:
Hi 'A Reader'

Good review. Barry Groves' doctorate in nutritional science is mentioned in the book - P.498 'About the Author'.

I agree that Barry Groves' arguments can be a bit lightweight, and he can be somewhat selective in lifting conclusions from studies; he has a tendency to stretch things here and there (all these authors do, no matter what their point of view). I think it is best to read a number of books - they tend to fill in each others holes. But the big question is, in general terms: Is he right, or is he wrong in his approach? My opinion - he is dead right. In my own diet, I aim for non-starchy carbs approximately 10-15% of calories, animal protein 15-20%, and the rest fat (mostly saturated) - no sugars, no grains, no starchy vegetables
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